Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sermon: October 25

Given at the 8 AM service...
Take our lips, O Lord, and speak through them; Take our minds and think through them; Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” & Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”

In the Gospel for this morning on the side of the road outside Jericho, a most unlikely fellow believed in the Christ. His name is Bartimaeus, son of Timeaus. He is a blind beggar. He has heard of Jesus & the miracles he has done. And now as this crowd goes in front of him, he hears that Jesus is among them.
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me."
Many in the crowd (including disciples!) who are following Jesus out of Jericho order him to be quiet, to shut up, to stop bothering Jesus. But he would not give up: "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Call him here says Jesus. When Bartimeaus hears that Jesus is calling to him, he springs up, throws off his cloak, leaves his few meager possessions behind & goes to Jesus. He asks Jesus. “Rabbouni (my teacher) let me see again.” To which Jesus says. “Go your faith has made you well.” Immediately his sight is regained and he follows Jesus to Jerusalem.

We have much to lean from Bartimaeus:
-that Jesus is the Christ and teacher of us all
-to be persistent in one's faith, is valued by Jesus, and to live into such hope and trust in him
-when called by Jesus to follow him, to throw off all that would hold us back & go

Bartimeaus receives what the rich man was looking for a few weeks back, he gets peace in his heart, for Bartimaeus was willing to give up everything, and he follows Jesus after his healing. It is his faith that sets him free. Although he couldn’t see, Bartimeaus wasn’t really blind, for through his faith he could see Jesus.

The crowd that shouts him down, fails to see the faith in another person, wanting their own time with Jesus, they don’t want him to be bothered by a beggar on the side of the road. They were blind to Bartimeaus & to who Jesus is, the Christ for us all.

Sometimes we are blind, like the crowd, to who Jesus is and we fail to see the needs all around us. There is a prayer that begins with "Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us." And it is important for us to be ready to see God at work in the world.
A story is told about a new bishop who began his ministry by driving to all the parishes in his vast diocese to meet his priests and parishioners. He spent the hours driving from parish to parish listening to all kinds of educational tapes and recorded books, believing it was important to be an up-to-date, educated bishop. And when he arrived at the church he was visiting, he would basically disgorge onto parishioners everything he just learned. From the looks on people's faces, however, he got the feeling it wasn't working.

One morning, while he was driving to his next parish, he saw ahead of him a shape on the road. It was a turtle. He braked, pulled over, picked up the turtle from the middle of the road, and placed it safely on the other side. As he continued to visit parishes, he started keeping an eye out for turtles - and there were a lot of them, struggling across busy roads to nearby streams and ponds. It became the bishop's practice to watch for them and to stop and pick them up if they needed help.

After a while, he stopped listening to the tapes because he might miss a turtle, and he started leaving the car windows open so he could smell the air, especially in the early summer. The bishop discovered that he was more relaxed and attentive when he arrived at a parish, and this was what people wanted and needed rather than his take on the latest theology. [From The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher.]
In the busyness of our lives, we can become blind to the people who mean the most to us and to the pursuits that bring joy and meaning to our lives; in the many demands placed on us, we stop seeing the possibilities for doing good and affirming things. We rationalize our own self-absorption, our lack of compassion, our avoiding anyone or anything unpleasant, our refusal to accept responsibility.

In "looking out" for turtles, the bishop rediscovers the compassion and consolation that is the heart of his ministry to the people of his diocese. For it is Christ the healer who comes to restore our "sight," enabling us to realize the presence of God in our lives and to recognize the opportunities to bring such healing and love to others.

On March 18, 1958 the monk Thomas Merton was in Louisville, KY and had a profound encounter with God. Merton recounting his transforming experience wrote this (from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander):
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness…

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud…I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts, where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time.”
Our deepest prayer is the cry of the blind Bartimaeus to have our eyes opened and see God's compassion and forgiveness, his mercy and justice in our midst. It is to have a profound experience of God in the midst of our busy lives like Thomas Merton and to see our common connection to one other. And it is in helping the turtles, and those in need, get to the other side.

May our eyes be opened to God's work around us, recognizing the Spirit of God in every human being and be transformed by God as we follow in faith where Jesus is leading each of us. Amen.

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